This coming January, Congress will have the opportunity to ensure America’s Internet users never see taxes go up on their Internet access. They can accomplish this by passing a permanent extension of the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA), which prevents states and local governments from taxing Internet access.
Keeping Internet access free from burdensome state and local taxes has been an overwhelming bipartisan priority since 1998. After all, if you take a look at your phone or cable bill, you will see how states and municipalities have loaded up a bunch of different fees that can increase the cost of service by 10 percent or more. But policymakers have wisely recognized that the Internet is different and shouldn’t be subject to the same patchwork of state and local taxes that can drive up the cost and discourage further consumer adoption of this critical service.
As Internet access becomes increasingly important to everyday life, promoting access and adoption to fast, reliable Internet connections has become a national priority. And ITFA plays an important role because exposing the Internet to aggressive tax collectors puts at risk all those who rely on the Internet: the millions of consumers who are struggling to make ends meet, the thousands of small businesses which sell their wares and connect with their customers, the senior citizens who are communicating with their families far away, the students who rely on the Internet’s vast resources to get ahead, and the rural residents who depend on the Internet to connect with doctors who are hundreds of miles away.
While Congress renewed ITFA several times in recent years, this past June, the House finally passed a permanent ITFA extension. An identical Senate bill also has strong support. As it is now, ITFA is something of a Sword of Damocles, dangling over the entire Internet industry, from providers to creators, not to mention every single American who depends on broadband access.
We’re not alone in our effort to protect consumers from unnecessary Internet taxes. This issue has broad support across industry, academia, and media, and from legislative and regulatory officials. This coalition agrees that unless we prohibit state and local governments from taxing the Internet, consumers could be hit with substantial taxes that would only serve to obstruct Internet adoption and place an undue burden on low income families – perhaps the group most in need of affordable broadband.
This is an issue that has long found broad bipartisan support. We hope that when Congress revisits this issue in January, they will realize that it’s time to stop these temporary reprieves and act, at long last, to make ITFA permanent.